By Dezimon Alicea, Gary Crusader
When I hear the words “solar panels” my mind immediately goes to a family finding ways to save money every month, or it goes to a planet enthusiast interested in ways to save the earth.
Climate control and carbon footprints are not typically found in the language of a modern church, especially not in Gary, Indiana. But one pastor is trying to change that perception. Curtis Whittaker is Senior Pastor of Progressive Community Church International. He believes the role of the church should go beyond a Sunday morning service. He, along with the congregation he pastors, is on a mission to “Serve and preserve the earth.” And according to the National Resources Defense Council, “Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history.” Climate control is a major and rising concern for this Gary pastor and his flock.
On a weekly basis, Whittaker takes the gospel he preaches on Sunday mornings, and tries to implement those same ideologies into the community he serves.
A product of Gary, growing up in the same area in which his church is located, in the area of 7th Kentucky, Whittaker takes great pride in being visible and attending to the growing needs of the people in that community. While reminiscing on his youth, Whittaker said, “Growing up, every house was occupied,” but he now recognizes all of the blight that has consumed that community. His work to improve the negative narratives associated with his city go beyond the work he does with solar panels and clean energy; he has started work in urban farming as well.
Four years ago, Whittaker asked the question, “What can we do in our community to eliminate blight?” With that question came a solution: Faith Farms, a CDC focused on Urban Farming. With the purchase of one plot of land four years ago, began a simple process to make healthier food options available to the residents of Gary.
“We’re in a food desert, and do not have the access we need to fresh and local food.” Observers have taken notice of Whittaker’s non-traditional methods to explore different ways to impact the city. Many have observed the same model. With recent partnerships, Whittaker and his team will be able to grow food year round. This is not only a great accomplishment for Whittaker and the people devoted to this vision, but it’s also a great milestone for citizens of the city.
With all that Whittaker is involved in, the question is frequently asked, “How do you find balance, and maintain it all?” “Support,” replies Whittaker. “Great people who take things off my plate.” Whittaker is able to manage the vision, while others run with the vision.
On April 20th of this year, Whittaker, along with several other people unveiled their innovative plan to redevelop the downtown Emerson area. Funded by the Legacy Foundation, this plan will provide job opportunities for Gary residents and offer an energy efficiency plan for homeowners. Whittaker is highly excited about this venture and the experience it will create for the residents of the city.
The work Whittaker provides in the city does not take away from his work within the church. On May 19th of this year, Whittaker, along with his church, will host a Women and Young Girl’s Conference. The keynote speaker for that event will be famed singer, Michelle Williams, a former member of the group Destiny’s Child. She will speak that Friday, at a free event. The conference will span the entire weekend of the 19th to the 21st of May.
For more information on the conference contact the church office at 219-880-0858.
Pastor Curtis Whittaker invites everyone to the services at Progressive Community Church International: Sundays at 11:15 a.m. and Bible Study every Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. The church is located at 656 Carolina St., Gary, IN.